Whether you’re keen to sleep in an old jazz bar or a former strip club, it’s the little details that make these places the most stylish boutique hotels in Toronto.
While Toronto has been quick to demolish much of its industrial heritage for shiny skyscrapers and Downtown developments, Canada’s biggest metropolis is also home to a string of stylish boutique hotels that have breathed new architectural life into the city, rejuvenating time-worn landmarks with cutting-edge contemporary design. From former chocolate factories to Victorian-era guest houses, Toronto’s boutique hotels are nothing like the generic chain properties you’re used to settling for – and these are the most stylish in town.
The Gladstone is Toronto’s oldest continually operating hotel – but you wouldn’t know it. Each and every one of its 37 rooms has been designed by a local creative, infusing this 19th-century property with avant-garde visions, such as the candy-themed Surreal Gourmet, the jigsaw-plastered Puzzle Room and the Lucky Stryke suite, a step through Toronto’s queer bar scene produced by celebrity designer Tommy Smythe. Sandwiched between the artsy neighborhoods of West Queen West and Parkdale, this boutique hotel hosts a crowded calendar of exhibitions, as well as an on-site cafe open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and moody cocktail joint Melody Bar.
The Annex feels more like an Airbnb than a hotel, doing away with a lot of the details that identikit chains pride themselves on. Instead of a reception desk, there’s digital check-in and a phone number to text for recommendations. Instead of room service, there’s a cafe-slash-wine bar in the lobby. And instead of trimmings such as a gym and valet parking, there are luxury Malin+Goetz skincare products, top-notch bedding and homely communal spaces. Occupying a century-old three-story building, The Annex’s 24 rooms are minimalist in design, while the contemporary photos, prints and illustrations hanging on the walls perfectly mirror the eclectic neighborhood that gives the hotel its name.
The Drake opened its doors in 1890 – roughly 100 years before a local rapper co-opted the name – before enjoying a head-to-toe makeover in 2004, adding colorful kitschy-chic design to this Victorian-era property in West Queen West. As well as sharing a moniker with Toronto’s most famous resident, The Drake has made a name for itself with its wide range of food and drink options, including legendary burgers in the Lounge, live music in the Underground bar and cocktails on the Sky Yard rooftop patio. The hotel’s 19 rooms, which range from size XS to XL, all feature original artwork and an artisanal minibar, with each guest receiving a bag of popcorn upon check-in.
For decades, this Romanesque red-brick building in Toronto’s East End housed the infamous Jilly’s strip club. Although pin-up posters, brass poles and velvet curtains still hint at the property’s tawdry past, The Broadview has turned the space into a much classier affair, accelerating the gentrification of the Riverside and Leslieville neighborhoods when it opened in 2014. The 58 rooms are a throwback to a bygone era, while the three eateries – hyper-seasonal diner The Civic, the laid-back Broadview Bistro + Bar and the al fresco Rooftop – serve cocktails minus any adults-only entertainment.
The Beverley’s sleek, minimalist rooms might be on the cozy side, but with a prime Downtown location like this, you won’t be spending much time sleeping. Situated on Queen Street West in the heart of The Six, this 18-room property is only a short stroll to the nightclub district and Downtown’s stylish shopping strip, plus the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre. Mexican snack bar Carlotta is open all year, while the South Beach-style rooftop patio basks in the summer sunshine. The Beverley also happens to be one of the most affordable boutique hotels in Toronto.
An urban-loft vibe runs through The Anndore House, a 10-storey apartment block dating back to the 1950s before it was converted into one of Toronto’s hottest boutique hotels in 2018. Local designer Cecconi Simone added warm shutter blinds, vintage lighting and luxe leather furniture to the priceless original brickwork of a property that’s an icon of the gay-friendly Church and Wellesley village. A legendary jazz bar used to reside in the building – that explains the record players in each of the 113 rooms – but the ground floor now accommodates the Mediterranean-inspired Constantine restaurant as well as a retro barber shop and pint-size cafe Scarlet Door.
While contemporary design has transformed many other 19th-century landmarks into some of Toronto’s most stylish boutique hotels, The Ivy at Verity remains a time capsule of the Victorian era. Situated in an 1850s chocolate factory in the historic Queen Street East district, each of the Verity’s four rooms has a king-size Hästens bed, handcrafted Italian linen and period decor that transports you to the mid-19th century. The hotel is attached to the Verity – an exclusive women’s club with supreme spa facilities – as well as the upscale George Restaurant, which serves a selection of suitably sophisticated tasting menus.
Frank Lopez contributed additional reporting to this article.